Saturday, February 26, 2005

Side Game Circus

Paul Phillips once wrote "Tournaments are for suckers."

Coming off fresh from a $90+ Thursday night home game win, I was plenty flush with cash to participate in a Friday night tournament held at a local neighborhood's clubhouse. The buy-in was $50 and there were 50 people entered in this freezeout tourney. Local favorites Teddy Ballgame, The Rankster, G-Ron Hubbard, and Matty C. joined yours truly in this attempt to win a four figure 1st place prize.

The structure wasn't too bad: T1000 to start and blinds began at 1/2. An interesting variation called for antes right away which sweetened the pot significantly relative to the blinds. My strategy for the first 3 levels was to hopefully see a cheap flop and catch a hand. Not too much in the way of cards came my way and after the first break I was sitting at T1090, only 4 chips above average.

My table quickly broke during level 4, the blinds were 10/20 with a 5 ante. I bought the first pot at my new table with A-rag when it was folded to me in late position. That would be the last pot I would win. The very next hand I found pocket 7's and limped. When the flop came 8,3,2 and it was checked to me, I bet T200. A drunk, clumsy, wild old player from early position check-raised me to T900 which would have put me all-in. I thought about calling with my initial read having put him on a draw with two clubs on the flop. I folded, opting for a better opportunity.

It never came.

I got blinded and ante'd down to T385 and when I found A,8 suited on the button, I pushed. I knew I'd get called because my stack was simply too small for a big stack to ignore. In fact, two players called. I had a glimmer of hope when the flop came 8-high. The other players checked it down, but the turn and river of K and Q respectively were bad news for me and great news for the guy holding K,Q. Out in 37th. Ugh.


I wandered over to a side game, not really intent on playing. It was still early and I was still up some cash from the previous night. Mrs. Blood was away and I thought I might head out for a bit. A seat opened up and I ended up deciding to sit down. The game was 1/2 no-limit but only a maximum of $20 for the buy-in. Not ideal, but this was a table of people who busted out of the tournament earlier than I did. Perhaps I could take advantage of some weaker players.

First hand I'm UTG and find pocket 2's. I limp and there are about 7 players to see the flop. Talk about loose. I loved the flop: A,Q,2 - with two clubs. SB checked and BB bet $4. I said "There's my Ace." and re-raised all-in expecting it to get folded around back to the BB and I'd be heads-up. Well, my re-raise of $14 enticed FOUR other callers. Three of whom, like myself were all in. So after constructing the side pots, we flipped the cards. BB had A,Q for top two pair. Some other guy called with J,T clubs and a third called with A,T off. My set was currently the best hand. I was shocked when it held up and all of a sudden I've got nearly $70 in my stack. Schwing!

Very next hand, with me in the BB, I look down at 4,5 off. It's checked all around and we see a flop. A,2,3. Unreal. Only problem was that it was all spades. I checked and called a $5 bet from the button who I put on either A-rag or a good spade draw. The turn was the Q of diamonds and I pushed. This time I got only 1 caller, the same guy who called the previous hand on a club draw. I don't even remember what his hand was, except that it contained the 4 of spades. The river brought the board its 4th spade and I was out-drawn. My stack was still healthy, but I was absolutely thrilled I sat down at this table. The players who have no issue calling all-in's on a draw are my favorite type - except when they catch.

I built the stack up further, busting someone with pocket J's when I had the Hilton's tucked neatly away in the pocket. As player after player left, we found ourselves down to 5 players. Then came....Hand....of....the....Night!

I limped in LP with 8,9 off. The flop was a very favorable 4,7,T with 2-diamonds. I checked and the button bet $5. The SB raised all in to $11 and figuring the button would just call, so did I. A beautiful J of hearts came on the turn and I slow-played it by checking, perhaps inviting disaster. The button bet $20 and I smooth called. I didn't even want to look at the river card, I just needed to avoid a diamond or the board pairing to maintain my absolute nut status. The river paired the T. I figured that I'd simply check-call a small bet on the river and take my chances. The button had no such thoughts.

He pushed all-in. For $120. Coincidently or not, that was EXACTLY what I had left in my stack. I asked him to count it and thought I caught a glimmer of surprise in his eyes that I actually wanted to know how much it would take me to call. I stood up and the button sat back and said "Take as long as you like, I'm here all night."

I basically pulled a Hellmuth and began pacing behind my chair. Teddy Ballgame had seen my hole cards as he was on his way out and chuckled a laugh at my predicament. He knew I was slow-playing and knew the river was a very, very, very BAD card for me. I considered folding as I'd still be up close to $50 for the evening. But then I thought I'd be up huge if I called and won.

I heard Josh Arieh in my head and realized I was not here to play tiddly winks.

I called.

He flipped up a T which I already knew he had. His other hole card? A glorious K. My straight took down a $303 pot. As amazement set in at having won over 14 times my buy-in, the other player took his loss about as graciously as possible. We shook hands agreeing that this hand is what poker is all about. I found it easy to agree and thanked him for taking the loss as well as he did.

What a night.


G-Ron and The Rankster had made the final table at the main event, but only the top 6 placed. I'll let G-Ron write up his experience which included a monster dropping of the hammer.

For now, I'm home with the mini-Bloods with Mrs. Blood out of town. I'm still trying to put together some form of home game at my house tonight to see if I can ride the wave any further. Anyone interested?

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